On Friday, March 5, I was lucky enough to be able to talk to our next College president, Dr. Joseph Urgo, or just Joe Urgo, as he signs his email correspondences. The interview is printed in the news section, but in my opinion, the text of the interview doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure, it reflects Urgo’s voice and provides an insight into his personality, his style, and his views of the College, but because of practical purposes, it doesn’t allow the student body to witness the dialogue that took place after the interview–dialogue that underscores even more the paradigm shift in leadership that St. Mary’s College is about to experience.
Current first-years never met our previous president, Maggie O’Brien; they may or may not have seen Acting President Larry Vote around campus. For our current acting president, any lack of visibility makes sense because of the new roles that he has taken on in this period between official presidents; however, Vote still leads choir and chambers, so some students interact with him on a regular basis. Regarding our previous president, Maggie O’Brien, I have never heard of any students regularly interacting with her. She was a recluse–campus “Maggie sightings” were a cause for excitement. I remember seeing her maybe five or six times in my first two years here, and talking to her in person maybe three times (and this was only because of my Point News connections).
Based on what I have heard from Urgo, this is all about to change. In the interview, he talks about using his Twitter account to give updates from sports games or alumni events. He has a Facebook page. He wants to have his own radio show, and starting in the spring of 2012, he may be teaching a seminar class. He’s talking about us seeing his family on campus as a regular fixture. Outside of the interview, he expressed a desire to meet with Point News editors and SGA leadership on a weekly basis. And from what I’ve read in the Hamilton Spectator, the college newspaper of Urgo’s home institution, this isn’t just empty talk. Presidential leadership is changing at St. Mary’s, and it sounds like it’s changing in a big way.
But this isn’t just change in terms of our president’s visibility. The sort of immersion that Urgo has discussed indicates the development of new channels of both informal and formal communication. In our last issue, Point News editor Dave Chase outlined several issues that he felt the new president would need to address. Two of his concerns, about tuition and construction, I felt were outside the scope of the interview because Urgo hasn’t taken office yet. But the third, Dave’s priority of creating a new decision-making structure that involves students as much as possible, already seems to be a priority for Urgo as well.
Urgo and his wife will be visiting campus from Thursday, March 11 to Monday, March 15. There are two opportunities to see him: one during and after the Thursday performance of Cabaret and one at 1:30 p.m. on Friday around Montgomery, Schaefer, and Glendening Halls. To students: these are your first opportunities to meet Urgo and decide on him for yourselves. Dave and I will be there after Cabaret; we hope to see you there.